- Chickens have come home to roost
“Shame on the misguided, the blinded, the distracted and the divided. Shame! You have allowed deceptive men to corrupt and desensitise your hearts and minds to unethically fuel their greed.” –Suzy Kassem
Nawaz Sharif’s legal journey in his battle to convince the court/s to overlook his prolonged absence in spite of his bail having lapsed seems to be nearing an end. On September 15, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the former prime minister. Proceedings to declare him an absconder have also been initiated. Another court has already declared him an absconder, leading to initiation of steps by the government to get him back in the country to face the charges.
This has taken a long time in coming owing to the Sharifs’ masterful skills for buying everything that would suit their purposes, survival and continued advancement in the political domain being the most important. This dates back to the beginning of their political journey under the tutelage of General Jilani and later Dictator Zia ul Haq. They never looked back and went on a frenetic spree to first default on repayment of loans to the banks only to be reprieved, and then to unleash the tyranny of money to buy everything along the way to the offices of the chief minister and the prime minister. Once ensconced there, they used the commodity lavishly to turn human beings into paid lackeys and sycophants. Under the command of the two brothers, and with the support of their close lieutenants and bootleggers, they degraded democracy to become a vile instrument for inducting the most corrupt people into the political echelons.
Their disdain for the judiciary and the rule of law is proverbial. They were used to dictating orders to the judges over telephone, the Malik Qayyum episode being just one among many others which never hit the public view. When the Supreme Court, under the command of the then Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, refused to capitulate, they first despatched a consignment of currency notes to Quetta vide a person who was later anointed President as a reward for his chicanery, and then proceeded to have the court attacked by goons to stop it from functioning. The mob comprised members of their party, including sitting legislators. In a crude display of the same criminal mindset, the PML(N has urged the convict/absconder Nawaz Sharif not to return to the country, thus having come out publicly in defiance of the IHC injunction. It is not a case of a few individuals. The entire party stands guilty of contempt.
The speech by Prime Minister Khan at the conclusion of the joint session of Parliament was par excellence. After holding a mirror in front of these leaders to see where they come from, he finished with a flourish: “We are willing to work with the opposition to strengthen the country and democracy, but there will be no compromise on corruption”
Lying, fabricating, forging documents, hiding facts and indulging in just about everything illegal, have been their favourite instruments to escape accountability. Nawaz Sharif was caught lying on the floor of Parliament only to rubbish it later as a political gimmick. His subsequent two statements were out of sync with each other, and everything he presented in the accountability court belied all his previous protestations. His defence mechanism was one mammoth and shameless pile of lies and deceit.
Nawaz Sharif’s rule was particularly conspicuous because of politicisation and criminalisation of the state institutions including the bureaucracy, ingratiating them to take an oath of loyalty not to the state, but his person instead, thus recruiting a coterie of lackeys to do his bidding. In return, they were extravagantly rewarded with graft over and above their legal benefits. This virtually legitimised corruption.
The younger brother was not the one to lag behind. His rule as chief minister of Punjab was studded with a high dose of fake drama. There was nothing real about his demeanour and actions, just petty optics to create an impression of governance. He is the one who criminalised the police force and had fake armed encounters staged to eliminate people. From the state institutions to bureaucracy to police to local administration– everyone was beholden to the Sharifs for immeasurable illicit earnings. This is only a microcosm of the extent of corruption they practised and promoted with the help of a host of aiders and abettors.
The Charter of Democracy was in fact a Charter of Corruption with the two political parties, led by the Sharifs and the Zardaris respectively, cunningly agreeing to cover each other’s back for illegitimate enrichment of their personal coffers. In order to do so, they appointed a virtual criminal, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, as the chairman of NAB who, instead of pursuing the corruption cases against them, manoeuvred their way to freedom.
Much to their angst, the Sharifs and Zardaris are now pitted against Prime Minister Khan who, throughout his political innings spread over more than 20 years, has vowed to eliminate corruption from the country. In spite of innumerable hurdles, he has remained steadfast in fulfilling his commitment. That’s why one sees a plethora of cases being pursued vigorously in various courts of law. Though there have been instances of dereliction, it appears that the Sharifs and Zardaris may, after all, not be able to use their pelf to secure relief.
As a deceitful camouflage to thwart accountability, the PML(N) and the PPP jointly presented a 34-point charter for securing an NRO by having amendments incorporated in the FATF-related legislation. This was a heinous attempt to blackmail the government in a matter that was of existential relevance for the country─ quite in keeping with their time-tested tactic of short-circuiting and circumventing the process of law for gaining political reprieve. Giving in to their demands would have meant stoppage of the process of reform altogether, thus further perpetuating the status-quo which is a vile and wicked legacy of the rule of these two families.
That is the reason why Prime Minister Khan decided to take them on in a decisive battle to expedite the advent of meaningful and far-reaching change in the country. As a first step, on September 16, at a joint session of the Parliament, the government successfully piloted all eight bills through the House, including three FATF-related ones.
The story of the felonies of the Sharif and Zardari clans is a long and sordid one and available space would not permit me to pen all of that here. Suffice to say that it was neither the interest of the state that typified their gross misdemeanours, nor the welfare of the poor and the marginalised people of the country. It was their own interest alone that dictated their policies. The country was reduced to becoming their personal fiefdom with members of their families its princes and princesses who were empowered to rule by diktat, resulting in merciless plundering of the state resources. It is only now that the long arm of law is closing in to make them pay for their arson and robberies.
The speech by Prime Minister Khan at the conclusion of the joint session of Parliament was par excellence. After holding a mirror in front of these leaders to see where they come from, he finished with a flourish: “We are willing to work with the opposition to strengthen the country and democracy, but there will be no compromise on corruption”.
There is going to be no compromise, no go slow, and no reprieve. The faces that Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Zardari cut at the press conference they held at the conclusion of the joint session of Parliament tell the whole story: chickens have come home to roost.